The Highlands Historical Society (HHS) operates as a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the architectural resources and cultural history of the Highlands community in Edmonton.
Our objectives are to:
- Develop an awareness of the history of the Highlands community.
- Engage in projects that celebrate the historical characteristics of the Highlands & create community pride.
- Act as a liaison with other organizations within and outside the Highlands that share similar interests.
In 1988, the “Highlands Historical Foundation” was created by a group of residents who recognized the importance of preserving one of Edmonton’s most significant historical communities. The name was changed in 2009 to the “Highlands Historical Society, Edmonton” to better reflect the organization’s objectives.
Initial activities included walking tours, a community Festival of Lights, research on historic gardens, an annual historical buildings art show, and a newsletter that continues today as an important way to highlight and communicate the local history of the Highlands and profile local residents, businesses and homes.
Recording of oral histories began in the late 1980’s and to date, dozens of long time residents have been interviewed, their stories recorded and transcribed and their histories shared with City of Edmonton Archives.
In 1993, a walking tour guide was published in collaboration with the Edmonton Historic Board, the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation, Northlands and the provincial government. It was updated and expanded in 2011.
In 2003, the HHS launched their first website with the goal to publish feature articles and to help reach out to a broader audience.
2005 saw the inception of the popular, members only, “At Home in the Highlands” open houses at private residences. In addition, open houses have been offered to the public at a fee especially during the Historic Festival & Doors Open Edmonton. These represent an important facet of the HHS’s fundraising efforts.
The Decorative plaque program launched in 2009 was an instant success. This joint initiative with the City of Edmonton, enables Highlands residents who own a home 50 years or older to apply for a plaque to be placed on their home. To date there are over 120 decorative plaques proudly mounted on homes all around the neighbourhood.
In 2010, the HHS updated their visual identity with a new logo, and the development of a social media presence.
In celebration of the Highland’s neighbourhood centennial, the HHS hired Edmonton’s Historian Laureate, Ken Tingley, to author a book about the history of the Highlands. The book, released in April 2012, is a treasured keepsake for many Highlands residents and serves to solidify the appreciation of this fine neighbourhood.
Historical diaries are often treasures of information about daily life in past eras, and in 2018, HHS published the James Bond Steele Diaries. A brother of the famous North-West Mounted Police officer Sam Steele, James came to the Northwest Territories in 1885. He worked as a teacher at Belmont School, which served an area that included present day Highlands. Steele’s diary was edited by Melanie Moore and Robyn Fowler, and shows the challenges and joys of life in the Edmonton Settlement between 1885 and 1891.
This book was launched at the HHS’s 30th anniversary celebration. Check out our August 2018 post on the Events and Updates page for more details about this special event. More recent activities include: the installation of a commemorative bench honouring the Gullion family, on whose land much of the Highlands neighbourhood was built; a souvenir book about the Magrath Mansion, an At Home event, Pop-ups, and walking tours.